On Becoming a Great Recruiter, Part 6

If one of your client groups has ever incorrectly eliminated a good candidate because someone on the hiring team was a weak interviewer, this article is written for you. But some background first. We’re now into the final stages of this series on becoming a great recruiter. If you’ve participated fully, you’re now much better at taking the assignment and finding more top active and passive candidates and closing more assignments more quickly.

If you haven’t participated, you’re sending out too many candidates to be interviewed, you’re not seeing as many strong active and passive candidates as you could be, and if you haven’t tried out the techniques presented last week, there’s no doubt that you’re losing candidates who drop out due to compensation differences, or you’re overpaying for the candidates you are hiring. Now consider this. If you followed the guidelines provided in this series, you’re at least 20% better than you were just two short months ago, and that’s if you’re an experienced recruiter. You’re now at least 30% better if you’re a mid-level recruiter, and at least 50% better if you’re just starting out. But, you’re no better if you don’t think you need to get better, and unfortunately many recruiters fall into this category. Not wanting to get better is the first sign of decline.

You might want to take the Recruiter Diagnostic and our annual Recruiting Challenges 2006 to see where you stand on this point. Even better, use this same concept when you interview your candidates. Top interviewers know that a candidate’s personal growth rate is a great predictor of potential and self-motivation. Knowing this and a few other interviewing tips which you’ll learn in this article will help you defend your candidate from managers who don’t interview too well. If you’ve ever lost a good person because someone on the interviewing team was unprepared, emotional, or a weak interviewer, you know what a waste of time this can be.

Equally as bad is having great candidates not even be considered because they didn’t have exactly the right mix of skills, experience, or academic background. Good interviewing skills can help recruiters minimize these types of non-hires. The goal of this article is to reduce your sendouts per hire ratio by at least one. For most recruiters, this will result in a productivity increase of at least 20-30%, which means you’ll be able to make one additional hire per month, or 12 additional hires per year. At an average cost per hire of $3,574, this is a cost savings of $42,888. Per recruiter! Each year! Just by following the tips in this article! Here’s how:

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  • Know the job. Reread Part II in this series and follow the instructions suggested. If you’re the type of recruiter who uses the traditional skills- and experience-based job description to merely screen candidates while the hiring team determines if they’re suitable for the job, you’re just a box-checker. At a minimum, good recruiters need to determine if a candidate can do the work at a high level of competency, and get the person excited about proceeding in the selection process by positioning the job as a career move, not a compensation increase. Where do you stand on this measure of recruiter competency?
  • Get your hiring team to agree on real job needs. With everyone present who will be interviewing the candidate, ask them all what it would take for them to hire a person who had half the experience listed on the job description, without compromising on-the-job performance. They’ll probably say, “Demonstrated proof that the person has done exceptional work doing similar things required on the job.” Then, ask the manager to describe some of these typical things.
  • Now, use the interview to get the proof you need that your candidate has done exceptional work in these areas. Getting the group together and getting them to agree to real job needs is really the core secret of great recruiting. Getting the hiring manager and interviewing team to switch the hiring decision to performance objectives rather than skills is how you reduce your sendouts per hire by at least one, and how you save $42,888 per year. The basis of performance-based interviewing was presented in Part IV. (Here are a few other articles on this topic.) The key is to determine if the candidate is competent and motivated to do the real work required. If the hiring team doesn’t agree on what work is required, then even if they agree upon a candidate there’s a good chance that you’ll hire the right person for the wrong job.
  • Implement an evidence-based assessment approach. One of the big problems with interviewing in most companies is the informal and unsophisticated way in which consensus is reached. Here’s a quick (and crude) way to rank your organization on selection effectiveness on a 1-10 scale, with a 10 being outstanding.
    • Ranking 1: Unsophisticated. Interviewers make quick decisions based on first impressions and skills, and use the interview to collect information to confirm their initial reaction; then, they vote yes or no. The votes are then tabulated with minimal or informal discussion, and no votes typically override one or more yes votes. Unprepared or weak interviewers are given equal voting rights.
    • Ranking 5: Average. Some interviewers make quick judgments, some don’t. Many interviewers dig deep into technical skills. Other interviewers focus on intelligence and drive. Some interviewers are trained; many are not. Sometimes, the post-interview debriefing is formal; sometimes, it’s not. There is no formal, set approach to conduct a debriefing session. There is no formal process in place to handle all of these different approaches and variations in interviewing skills.
    • Ranking 10: Sophisticated. While it is recognized that some interviewers make quick decisions based on first impressions and presentation skills, tools are in place to minimize these natural biases. All interviewers know real job needs and are trained to measure core competencies against these real job needs. The up-down voting process is prohibited. The roles of interviewers who are unprepared or don’t know how to interview properly are minimized. A formal, approved debriefing process is in place that addresses all of these differences in which interviewers meet formally 100% of the time to share evidence and reach consensus.
  • Recruiters lead these debriefing sessions. Getting somewhere between a 7 and 8 ranking (which is good enough to get the savings indicated) is pretty easy. During the formal debriefing session, have the interviewing team rank your candidates on a 1-5 scale (5 being superb) on these five core competencies: 1) competency to do the real work, 2) motivation to do the real work, 3) team skills working with comparable teams, 4) achievement of comparable results, and 5) cultural and environmental fit. If you want to get a little more sophisticated, you can use this 10-factor candidate assessment template to guide you through this.
  • Defend your candidate from generalities, intuition, and emotional biases. If you know the job and conducted a thorough interview yourself, you should be in a position to question any opinions about your candidate’s ability to do the work based on vague general statements. The key to this is to ask other members of the hiring team for specific proof. For example, an “I don’t think the person would fit here,” can be offset by someone saying, “While at ABC company last year, Kathy closed as many deals with major accounts just like the ones we expect her to handle with us.” Recruiters need to facilitate these types of in-depth conversations to prevent good candidates getting excluded from consideration due to superficial interviewing skills.
  • Lead the panel interview before you get to the debriefing session. Panel interviews tend to be less emotional and more business-like. If the recruiter can lead these using some type of structured, in-depth, performance-based interview, then the evidence like that suggested above will be heard by all members of the hiring team. Getting the evidence is how you defend your candidate from bad decisions. The key here is to use specific information as evidence to hire or not hire someone, rather than generalities, emotions, intuition, or biases. A panel interview is a great means to accomplish this. A panel interview also allows weaker interviewers to participate fully in the process.

That’s it. That’s how you defend your candidates from bad hiring decisions. In the process, you’ll reduce your sendouts per hire and save at least $42,888 per recruiter per year. Better still, you’ll stop hiring great people for the wrong jobs, and start hiring great people for the right jobs, even if they don’t meet the exact criteria on the job description. Collectively, this is how you make sure the best person gets the job – not the best interviewer.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


1 Comment on “On Becoming a Great Recruiter, Part 6

  1. Lou

    Very interesting series of articles, very refreshing, if we do not continue to evolve and improve someone will come and take our place. It is really very simple. Another technique that we find effective is to simply require a retainer. Make the focus so much easier and the committment is serious.

    Thank you for all your contributions to this network.

    Mary Spilman

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